DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata in g; Cello Sonata in d; Flute, Viola, and Harp Sonata; Syrinx for Solo Flute – Boston Sym. Ch. Players – Pentatone

An outstanding release wonderfully brought back to life.

DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata in g; Cello Sonata in d; Flute, Viola, and Harp Sonata; Syrinx for Solo Flute – Boston Sym. Ch. Players – Pentatone multichannel SACD (4.0) PTC 5186 226, 46:11 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

For those of you who don’t remember, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, one of the greatest groups of its time, consisted of (for this disc) Joseph Silverstein, violin; Jules Eskin, cello; Michael Tilson Thomas, piano; Doriot Anthony Dwyer, flute; Burton Fine, viola; and Ann Hobson, harp. Especially interesting is the fact of all the trouble Tilson Thomas was supposedly having with the symphony members—who were not liking him much, according to some sources—yet the recordings he made with them during the start of his career, were nothing less than sensational, several now considered staples of the recorded legacy and even desert island discs.

This translated into his work with the Chamber Players too. Tilson Thomas, an outstanding pianist, hooked up with the folks on this recording to make a go at repertory that was always second nature to the BSO. Its moniker “The Aristocrat of Orchestras” indicated a certain suavity and high natured tonal luster that made the music of Debussy and other turn-of-the-century French works idiomatic to its foundational principles. Hearing the section chiefs in these stunning readings show that the qualities of the whole rubbed off on the parts; these performances are as innately “right” in every sense of the word as can be. The spirit of lightness, delicacy, and balance form a protective bubble around each piece, bursting with tonal brilliance and passionate Gallic sensibilities. Honestly, I can’t think of many performances that better any of them

These are 4.0 quadraphonic recordings, lovingly restored here to be heard the way they were meant to be, yet could not be at the time. Now that we have them back, the world is a little better off than it was before. Highest recommendation.

—Steven Ritter

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